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Abominable Snowmen, by Ivan T. Sanderson, [1961], at

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7. Late North Americans

All possible knowledge has, of course, been right under our noses since the beginning, but we have to dig for it. Often we miss things; sometimes we deliberately ignore them.

You can take the title of this chapter any way you like. Late is a useful word: it has two completely opposite meanings that imply novelty or extinction. There is also a connotation of tardiness about a late-comer. This serves my purpose well.

When Betty Allen started browsing around among her Amerindian friends she brought to light two sets of surprising facts. The first was simply that said friends, one and all, had always known about the Toké-Mussis and Oh-Mahs, completely accepted them as being quite real, and regarded them as in no wise bizarre. They had, however, and quite rightly, long since decided that they were not a suitable topic for conversation with white men since it seemed to annoy them, while their even mentioning their beliefs about the matter only augmented the general contempt in which all their other ideas were already held. There were those among the Amerinds, even of the older generation who just brushed the business aside or referred to it as folklore. Surprisingly, though, there proved to be not a few among the younger generation who met the white man's skepticism with a deep-rooted scorn of their own, and who affirmed that there was absolutely no doubt that these manlike creatures still exist; and not in too few numbers either, not only all over this territory but over other wide areas. I had the privilege of talking to some of these young people myself and was much impressed—I might almost say startled—not only by their sincerity but also by the matter-of-fact

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way in which they discussed it, and their reasons for not previously discussing it with any outsiders. Though I have the permission of some of these new friends to mention their names, I will refrain from doing so, because they would undoubtedly be subjected to ridicule and an unmerciful ribbing, even in their own community.

I will not report in full what they told me, nor all that Betty Allen learned because it is highly repetitious, is little different from all the other accounts I have given of observations of the creatures, and does not really add any new details. One and all of that category of account of which I speak were firsthand (I have some two dozen on file), alleged encounters with the creatures in and about this block of montane forest which I call the Klamath. The interesting thing is that these reports go back to the 1930's but become increasingly more frequent up till 1958. Since then they have formed a positive flood. My interpretation of this is that, while the age of the tellers naturally showed up statistically, another factor is much more important. This factor is that it is only comparatively recently that roads have been started into these large areas of national forest. The jeep caused the first move in this activity, being one better than a mule in this country, but needing at least a clear path of a certain width that might loosely be called a road. Next, the government decided to open up these national forests to timber-cruising, it having been demonstrated that one of the best ways to conserve timberlands is to cut out the oversized and overage trees which retard new growth. The road-building program for the first time took large numbers of people into areas not previously penetrated, or into which people found it hard to go even to hunt. These are the retreats of the Oh-Mah.

The other thing that Betty Allen brought to light was the much more surprising fact that this was not by any means only an Amerindian folk-tale. She began to hear the names of white men and others who, it was said, had also met or seen these creatures. She went after these persons too, and found out in due course that it was so, and that they, in turn, had not been saying anything for fear of ridicule. I withhold their

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names too, as I do not have the permission of any to publish them and I would no more wish to embarrass them than I would my Amerindian friends. Most of these had also been employed on road construction, but there were others, including two doctors of medicine returning from a mass emergency late one night along Route 299 going east from Willow Creek, who said they had nearly run into one, although they had slowed down, thinking it to be somebody signaling for a lift. They said that it was at least 7 feet tall when it stood up, had straight legs but very long arms, and was clothed in thick lightish brown fur; and who better than (even tired) medical men ought to know? Some of these local stories went back 30 years.

Then, there was the extremely unsavory (to me) interjection of the business of "little people." It is a particularly odd one in this neighborhood for several reasons. First, the Amerinds will not, as far as I have been able to determine, come right out and either assert or deny their existence. Unlike the giants, of which they speak quite factually, they seem to regard these pigmies with a high degree of superstition, and their folk-tales are rife with stories of such little people playing with their children on riverbanks; but, while being visible to youngsters, being invisible to adults. This is a very widespread myth that crops up all over the world about fairies, pixies, and suchlike little folk. However, some white people of higher education, and resident on the outskirts of fully opened-up and settled areas, have told the same story, and perfectly straight, but have also, in several cases, implied that they had assumed, or had definite grounds for supposing that these little hairy ones were the young of the Oh-Mahs!

Simultaneously, this dearth of direct claims that these midgets have been seen is in marked contrast to reports that their little foot-tracks have actually been found both in snow and mud much more often than those of the giants. I have seen sketches of these drawn to scale, but so far no photographs or plaster casts. Many times they are said to crowd around pools or depressions in snow and to trail into and out of the undergrowth in all directions. They are very funny little imprints,

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averaging only about 4 inches long and do, for the life of me, look very like those of tiny men but with very pointed heels.

I frankly don't like this: I don't like it one bit: and it also upsets me. All of us almost automatically become annoyed with anything new, and especially when it appears to conflict with our logic and the orderly tenure of our lives. Perhaps you will say that if I can accept the possibility of the presence of giants I ought to be able to take little people in my stride. So I should, but I am afraid that I am a very pragmatic person, and there is something unsubstantial about these little footprints. Perhaps it is that I have not seen them in the fresh state myself? In fact, I find myself performing all the mental gyrations of the most advanced skeptics and debunkers in this case, and I know full well that I am doing my damnedest to explain them away.

The first thing one thinks of—just like the zoologists confronted with the Himalayan yetis—is any kind of local animal that might produce these tracks and, by Jove, there certainly is one. This is the large western porcupine. This animal has an astonishingly human-looking hind foot when seen from below, apart from large claws. It has a somewhat pointed heel. But there is the problem of its claws; and then there is another objection. The porcupine can waddle along on its hind feet quite well but, like the ground-sloths of old, it has a thick, stubby tail that is directed downward and which forms a tripod with the hind legs when the animal is standing up. However, it can be raised somewhat and could possibly be carried off the ground. At the same time, the claws on the back feet of really large porcupines are actually raised well off the ground so that the swollen pads under the feet can sink into soft substances quite a way before the claws leave imprints. Yet these tracks clearly show 5 toes—not sharply incised claw marks—all of about the same size and arranged almost straight across the front of the feet. In an endeavor to overcome this fact, an ingenious naturalist friend of mine has suggested that the claws of animals sometimes acquire globular encrustations of ice in winter when they are tramping about in wet snow and when a frost is coming on, and that these might produce

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the impression of toes. But what then of the tracks in mud, all over, and by thousands? As I say, I don't like this business; but, I also don't like leaving it up in the air; yet, I have nothing to add to it as of now. Until and unless I can go and find some of the tracks in mud myself, and carry out my own particular kind of investigation thereupon, I shall refrain from further comment. Then there has been another most peculiar business in this area. It transpired that nearby, certain persons who are free, white, family folk, live in rather expensive houses sometimes of the split-level ranch type, on blacktop roads around which school buses parade daily to take their offspring to be educated. In many cases they own houses which stand in several acres of land backed up against solid forest that has not been touched except for logging of large timber a century ago. They had something most unpleasant to report. These people live not more than 30 miles from a large and bustling modern city. They stated, in confidence and off the record, to certain locals for whose veracity I will vouch, that they had for long experienced a problem. This was simply that their kids—i.e. under 7-year-olds—had been found to be playing in the back fields up by the borders of the forest with certain fairly small hairy ones, who, when alarmed by the approach of human adults, allegedly took to the trees.

Said human kids, on reaching the age of reason, turned out not to want to talk about this abomination, while their parents most definitely did not and do not want it talked about. Nonetheless, they have talked a bit, and I pass it on to you for what it is worth. This is the kind of thing that gets people really riled: it also seems to me to slop over into the realm of "Little People" that only kids can see. Let us just suppose for a moment that Oh-Mah mothers permit their kids to play with ours (up to about the age of 7) but tell them to cut out the moment one of our adults appears over the fence! Naturally it would be only the kids who see the little hairy ones. There is no better playmate for a child than a 2-year-old chimpanzee.

There are other items connected with ABSMery generally in this area and to the north of it, which I also do not like but which should be presented and also without comment. This

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comes from, of all places, Albany in Oregon, which is in the Willamette Valley at the foot of Mt. Jefferson, and concerns a certain Lake Conser. A brief notice of this was published in Fate Magazine's issue for January, 1961 and read:

Albany, Ore.—The monster of Conser Lake is still on the loose. The creature reportedly stands on two webbed [italics mine]  * feet, is 7 to 3 feet high [tall], and with its shaggy white hair somewhat resembles a gorilla. It has kept pace with a truck going 35 m.p.h. Never harmed anyone though.

This is a nasty one, but let me give you some further details. These were contained in a letter to a friend of mine, dated October 27, 1960.

Creatures (several) last report, being sighted on farmer's farm. An attempt is being made to contact farmer whom to date wants his name and address held secret. Have made 5 investigation trips and have for evidence a finger print lifted off a house window including a plaster cast of a foot print (right). Have personal taped accounts of this creature plus many interviews, this includes photographs. He is all of 7' tall, 400 lbs.,, can move at tremendous speeds, jump tremendous distances. No news items concerning this being have been printed in the Portland Papers. He displays extreme cunning, walks and runs erect, appears frustrated, acts as if would like to communicate. He makes extremely high pitched sounds. His hair or fur has a slight glow in the dark and is 3 to 4 inches long. He walks with feet 19 inches long that make a sqeeshy sound. Has been seen in daylight and at night and seen to disappear once into the lake. Will send you complete report as soon as I can.

Creature first sighted several miles north of Albany, Oregon in a dense land area approximately 3 sq. miles. Open land extends all around this area & dotted with farms. Have any ideas how he got there?

Sorry for the delay for there has been new developments. A farmer who wishes to remain anonymous has sighted several on his farm. He is attempting to make friends with them. One is brown and one is white. At times they imitate his voice when he talks to them. Mr. farmer is an animal trainer and at the last report steady progress is being made. Hal Starr was contacted by this farmer and has promised that the location and that his name not be revealed. I would like to investigate further but am handicapped. They are up to 7' height covered with long hair which

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hangs over their faces. They walk erect and with all fours. They have taken a shine to the horses but the horses were frightened of them. Lots of foot prints around and are cloven.

Two weeks ago a sheriff of Salem told me that he heard on the radio KBZY that a person had called in saying that he had seen a creature near Hwy. 99. I talked to the announcer in Salem and verified this event. I am busy writing you a complete report. Hope this will suffice for a while.

I am afraid this did not "hold me" even for a little while because it is altogether one of the most shocking reports that has yet come into my hands. I have been pursuing the matter diligently with, however, no result whatsoever.

This remark about going into water on the part of an ABSM is fairly common and causes me to think furiously on two counts. First, it is really a very bizarre thing for anybody who is making a good story out of a series of lies, to think up. Into a cave, or even into a swamp, yes: but into water, per se, just as if it were an aquatic or at least semi-aquatic creature, is very weird. At the same time, one just has to take into account the perfectly astonishing theory put forward by Professor, Sir Alistair Hardy of Oxford early in 1960 and which, utterly bizarre as it at first sounds, has been most seriously considered by scientists and fully accepted as at least possible by many.

This suggests that one branch of the general Anthropoid stock—and, although Sir Alistair calls them "apes," I think we should surely name them Hominids, or at least as already being on the Man branch of that stock rather than on the Pongid or ape branch—about a million years ago took to semi-aquatic life and especially along seacoasts. But let this bold savant state his case in his own words: *

"Many apes were driven to hunt in the sea by fierce competition for food in the forests. At first they waded and groped in the water, but gradually learned how to swim. Over a period of several hundred thousand years, the species lost its hair as it carried on its marine life. The only hair left was on the very top of the head to help protect the creature from the sun.

"The sea ape learned to stand upright because water helped support

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the body. It developed longer legs than its land-based brother ape for swimming. Its hands became sensitively shaped to allow it to feel along the sea bed for shellfish and open crabs. It learned to use tools by picking up stones to crack open sea urchins. It would be only a step for man to discover that flints chipped into sharper and more useful tools, knives, and arrows. Then, armed with such equipment and his erect posture, he was all set for the chase. He could now reconquer the continents, running and hunting the animals of the plains. I estimate that apes were driven into shallow sea waters a million years ago. They emerged as men about 500,000 years ago."

He said he had discussed his theory with many other scientists and they had been unable to find a flaw in it. (A.P.)

If in the sea, why not also, or even previously in rivers, lakes, and ponds, more especially as swamps and marshes were much more prevalent in the past than they are now, particularly in the pluvial periods following the ice-advances and retreats of the past million years. Then again, there is another most convincing aspect of this idea, as follows. If at the beginning of the Pleistocene there were a variety of primitive anthropoids of the Hominid branch scattered about the earth, and if all of these were hairy, but did not all become extinct, as we have until now supposed, we have some ready-made characters for our ABSMs.

Let us suppose that several of these started going into water after food, and that one (or perhaps several) types did very well at it; lost their body hair; learned to crack stones and all the rest; and then came back to conquer the land as Men, just as Professor Hardy suggests. This still need not presuppose that all of them did so. Some of the types that started the practice may never have gotten farther than ducking into inland lakes and, while they did not keep at it fervently enough to lose their body hair, they did develop very long toes with an almost complete web between them. Do not forget that we still have two half-webbed toes ourselves—our third and fourth— and please don't fail to flip over to Appendix B and take a look at the California "Bigfeet," in which the second "ball" appears to be an enlarged basal big-toe joint. All the toes of this type must then, be very long and be webbed, because the mud or

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snow does not squish up between them but forms (and always forms) a tall angular ridge running at right angles to the direction of travel, just where it would be bunched up if the foot were webbed. We might therefore legitimately conceive of the Sasquatch—Oh-Mah type of ABSMs at least being relics of early hominids with semi-aquatic habits. This would explain any failure to have tools!

However, to interject at this point, I recently received a report from a neighboring area which would seem to indicate something of the same nature. This came to me from a young man in our Air Force whose wife is part Amerind. He lived until recently on the Makah Indian Reservation at Neah Bay, Washington. This young man got in touch with me through a magazine publisher, stating that he had some information that might interest me. I wrote him, and in reply received some very charming and highly informative letters, the contents of which I see no reason to question. Among these he wrote:

In my letter to you I mentioned the 18 ½ inch foot prints that were found out on the beach. I know these weren't made by any man going around with a foot cut out of a piece of wood. This beach is about 8 miles in the back woods and is a very hard spot to get to.

On another occasion last summer one of the fishermen out here was going to bed and heard a lot of splashing going on in a swamp in his back yard. From what he told me, he got a flashlight and went out there to take a look around and seen this huge creature tearing back into the woods after the light hit him. Up to this date there has been nothing more seen of it. Altho many people are waiting for it to come back. The day this person told me of what happened I took a gun and went into the swamp to look around. I actually found huge hunks of hair that must have been pulled loose when he ran back into the woods that night.

I have hunted and killed quite a few bears around here but that hair that I found that day was definitely not hair from a bear. For one thing, there was a couple of hairs that I measured to be close to 14 inches long and these hunks had a very strong odor unlike any bear that I have killed.

There is also one other occasion that makes me think that the Abominable Snowman is up around this neck of the woods. This happened to me some time before I read your articles in the True Magazine. One

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evening I went up this unused logging road to hunt bear. I was some 13 miles up this road and there is not one person living for about 20 miles around. On this occasion I happened to be alone. Well anyway I was sitting on a stump and was sitting there for about an hour when I heard this high pitched scream like a baby but this went on for almost an hour and the more I listened to it the more I decided that it wasn't a mountain lion. Then after a while it stopped and I never heard it again and I left without looking around. Then after I read your article I thought it might have been a Snowman up there. I went up there quite a few times after that but never heard or seen anything.

Once again, I have received nothing more from this source! It has always been my firm belief, as a reporter, that children don't lie. By this, I mean that, while real kids (say, under seven) live in a world of their own, peopled by many things that are not of our world but which are still most real to them, and while young persons from seven to the age of puberty delight in pulling the legs of their elders with tall tales, all young persons are much more basically honest than grownups. More, important, I do not believe that a young person can carry a lie forced upon him or her by an elder for any length of time; and, especially, under sympathetic questioning. I am therefore always interested in what young people have to say, provided that they know that I am sincerely interested, have an open mind, and am not critical of their age. Young people are also extremely keen observers, perhaps because they take a more nearly worm's-eye view of life and because their senses are more acute. Thus, when somebody tells me something that happened to them when they were young, I like to listen. This then from a young person about an incident when she was still younger:

Dear Mr. Sanderson:

I have just finished reading your story concerning the abominable [sic] man of Northern California. Before I write any further I would like to say that what I am about to say is positively true and I have never told anyone this story before for fear that they would think that I was half cracked and out of my mind.

I have seen this man-monster and can give you a detailed description of him. He is far from being pretty and I still wake up nights dreaming of him.

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When: About 9 years ago, at about 10 o'clock in the morning. Where: Near the Eel River above Eureka, California. At the edge of a meadow near the river's edge. Under what circumstances: My family and I were fishing on the Eel River. We had been camped in the vicinity for about 2 weeks and had had poor luck when it came to fishing. I used to go for a short walk before breakfast because there was a very pretty meadow about a mile or two from our camp and I used to love to see the mist rise off the grass. I was only about 10 years old at the time and the world of nature was something which both fascinated and enthralled me. I entered the meadow and proceeded to cross it in order to reach a small knoll at the other side. When I approached the foot of the knoll I heard a sound. It was the sound of someone walking and I thought perhaps my little brother had followed me and was going to jump out and try to scare me. I hollered, "All right, stinker, I know you're there." Needless to say it was not my brother that appeared. Instead it was a creature that I will never forget as long as I live. He stepped out of the bushes and I froze like a statue. He or "it" was about 71 to 8 feet tall. He was covered with brown stuff that looked more like a soft down than fur. He had small eyes set close together and had a red look about them. His nose was very large and flat against his face. He had a large mouth with the strangest looking fangs that I have ever seen.… His form was that of a human and he had hands and feet of enormous size, but very human looking. However, there was one thing that I have not mentioned, the strangest and most frightening thing of all. He had on clothes! Yes, that's right. They were tattered and torn and barely covered him but they were still there. He made a horrible growling sound that I don't think could be imitated by any living thing. Believe me I turned and ran as fast as I could. I reached camp winded and stayed scared all while we were there.

I have often thought that perhaps it was a mutation of some kind. I think this thing is highly dangerous and something should definitely be done about it.

I would be willing to testify to anything I have stated in this letter. I am not a crackpot and am completely sound of mind and body. I just thought you might be interested to know what your man-monster really looks like. Believe me if you saw him he would scare the wits out of you. I know!

Yours truly,

(signed) (Miss) B. C. *

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It is not perhaps quite proper to interject the following comments at this point but, I contend, a reporter has the right to indulge some speculation upon matters that he has investigated firsthand. This may be an infringement upon editorial rights but can be fobbed off as background information. It seems to me that there is something to this whole bit in California, Oregon, and Washington, and that it is pretty fatuous to try and put it all down to any of the standard explanations such as the hoax, the publicity stunt, the Indian folk-tale, mass hypnotization, mass cases of mistaken identity (of known animals), or other suggestions of that nature. We are all pretty odd, but we are not all liars or crackpots. Further, I do not feel it to be either right or justified to dub all Washingtonians, Oregonians, and North Californians as either; just because they say something we don't like, or which does not fit into our orderly pattern of what is or is not supposed to be. At the same time, I don't give a hang what any "expert" actually says. There are enormous areas in those three states about which nobody—not even the majority of their inhabitants—knows anything. I really cannot see why some new things should not turn up in those states.

If you could read all the reports that I have; and, much more; if you could listen to my recordings or have been with me when I interviewed and got to know the good people who had the guts to tell these stories, I think everyone interested would be not just amazed but somewhat shamed. It is so easy to sit back in one's own home, surrounded by all the normal, known things of modern life, and say "Phui"; but, get out in the woods and get hungry. A person will begin to see a lot of things he never saw before, and would never have seen if he had not got lost and run out of food. Thus, when a teen-ager writes to me from the delightfully named Happy Camp at the edge of the Klamath area and says: "Reading your story of America's abominable snowman, I find very interesting. But I think they've only found the baby. Here, in Happy Camp, our cars are turned over and rolled into the river, 6-foot trees uprooted, slides in the mountains, and when it snows 10 feet deep, 1-inch power lines are snapped in two. The daddy must

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cause this." I do not yell for Paul Bunyan and go into gales of laughter. Maybe there was no flood that shifted the cars, and the trees were 6 feet tall, not thick.

If things as bizarre can happen, or be alleged to happen, right in our own back yard, we should be doubly careful of criticizing things that are reported to happen beyond our borders. And when these form a logical concomitant to happenings in our own bailiwick, we ought to listen most carefully. Of course, there is the damnable, added frustration in dealing with foreign matters inherent in their very foreignness—one can't often go and look into them firsthand, and if one does, one has language and other difficulties. Moreover, if we doubt our own citizens, how much more so may we not those of other countries? This is all a pity but nonetheless the way things are. From now on, therefore, I won't expect anyone to believe what I report at all. We go first over the border south to our sister republic of Mexico.


140:* For the significance of the use of the word webbed here, see analysis of the imprints of the Oh-Mahs in Appendix B.

141:* Quoted from a story in the New York Herald Tribune, of March 7, 1960, from a March 6, verbatim, A.P. report on a conference of "Marine Scientists" at Brighton, England.

145:* Name and address on file, but for release in special circumstances only.—Author.

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